Clodagh O'Sullivan

Clodagh O'Sullivan

Clodagh Catherine O’Sullivan (PhD Candidate)

Deposition in Iron Age Ireland – an investigation into the function and significance of the practice

Supervisor: Dr Katharina Becker


The practice of deposition was widespread across Europe during both the prehistoric and early historic periods. Iron Age Ireland was of no exception, as large quantities of objects were deposited across the landscape, both singly and as hoards. The majority of depositions took place at wetland sites, such as bogs, rivers, or lakes, but there are many exceptions to this. Why were particular objects deposited at certain sites? Under what circumstances and beliefs did this practice take place?

Our understanding of the Irish Iron Age has significantly developed over the last two decades. This is due to a paradigm shift in our interpretation of the era, as well as advances in absolute dating technologies and an increase in excavation. How should the depositional practice be interpreted in light of this wealth of new evidence for life during the Irish Iron Age?

The aim of this thesis is to investigate the significance and function of the depositional practice during the Irish Iron Age.

The theoretical approach investigates the treatment of materials and landscapes as markers or expressions of identity. The artefacts of the period present as an array of ‘Roman’, ‘Celtic’ or ‘La Tène’ and ‘indigenous’ objects. These play a pivotal role in discussions regarding the ethnic, cultural, and social identities of the period.

This project combines a contextual and a landscape-based approach to identify and trace patterns in the depositional record. The methodologies employed include a desktop-based literature survey; archive survey; non-invasive topographical field surveys of a select number of sites; and the GIS analysis of the generated datasets.

Through this approach, the analysis of the Irish Iron Age deposition sites has great potential to further our understanding of the practice; this has already been proven by similar approaches in Britain, on the continent, and by some Irish case studies. A greater understanding of the depositional practice will also provide new information on wider cultural, religious, and social aspects of Iron Age Ireland and therefore significantly enrich our understanding of the period.

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